Inspiration Archives

100,000 photos

A Chicago nanny who took 100,000 street photographs in the mid 1900s started receiving national attention a few years ago, shortly after her death. She zealously hid these photos from others during her lifetime and many of them remained undeveloped.

Behold three of those photos:

A young man purchased a box of negatives at an auction in Chicago in 2007. One thing led to another and he eventually figured out Vivian Maier was the photographer and he went on to acquire 600 rolls of her undeveloped film and thousands of prints and negatives.  Here’s a video that tells more of the story.

Scroll down this blog to view more photos. It’ll be well worth your time.

(H/T Lady Elaine)


Erma Bombeck Celebration Day 2011

Today is the anniversary of the death of Erma Bombeck. It’s my tradition on this blog to post something about Erma on this day in celebration of her and her writing. I guess it’s fitting that it falls on Good Friday this year, as Erma was a Roman Catholic.

For the back story on the influence Erma had on me in my younger days, see this post. Essentially, Erma was an archetype for me. You know how it is when you’re young and youthful insecurities cause you to look to the outside for inspiration and the permission you need to proceed accordingly. Erma also made me laugh a lot.

A kind reader recently brought to my attention this 30 minute PBS documentary about Erma. It also gives an interesting glimpse into what life was like during the Depression and that brief era afterwards when housewives were the norm:

Watch the full episode. See more ThinkTV Originals.

It seems appropriate to close with this excerpt from Erma’s March 10, 1987 column:

I always had a dream that when I am asked to give an accounting of my life to a higher court, it will go like this: ‘So, empty your pockets. What have you got left of your life? Any dreams that were unfulfilled? Any unused talent that we gave you when you were born that you still have left? Any unsaid compliments or bits of love that you haven’t spread around?’

And I will answer: ‘I’ve got nothing to return. I spent everything you gave me. I’m as naked as the day I was born.’


Getting over certainty

One of my favorite U2 lyrics is from their song Stand Up Comedy: “I can stand up for hope, faith, love/But while I’m getting over certainty/Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady.”

And, of course, James Hollis has some interesting things to say about getting over certainty:

Meaning will not be found through any arrival at certainty, for any place we settle will soon prove inadequate. Meaning will arise from sundry departures from certainties, obligatory deaths and rebirths, and surprising new arrivals from which, then, new departures perforce persist. This is meaning.


On dancing bears and melting stars

Image and video hosting by TinyPicHuman speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars. — Gustave Flaubert


“The smart person accepts. The idiot insists.”

That’s my pithy quote of the day.

It comes from a long article in Vanity Fair that, unfortunately, has to do with what a mess the Greek economy is in and the role a monastery on Mt. Athos has played in it. Or something. The article is long and kind of a snooze but I really like that quote, which is posted in the Fr. Ephraim’s office at the monastery. He says “it’s the secret of success for anywhere in the world.”


His eye is on the Swallow

A forwarded email has been making the rounds with the title “His eye is on the Sparrow.”

It’s a series of seven photos of a Swallow tending to his dying partner and well worth looking at.

Fortunately someone put together the photos in a slideshow, so I don’t have to upload seven photos. It comes with some cheesy text, but you can handle it. ;) Here it is:



My 14-year-old had her first tennis practice of the season today and the coach asked the girls to pick a word to use to help them focus whenever they feel tired or like giving up.

They have to come up with the word by Friday but my daughter has already chosen hers – the word “engage” from Star Trek.

“Engage” is what the captain says when he or she wants the ship to move forward.

Below is a clip of Captain Picard saying “engage!”

I see they included some other words in this clip. I noticed how these words are so applicable to everyday situations and so refreshingly pithy:

“Let’s see what’s out there.”

“I’ve lost contact.”

“Make it so.”

“Red alert!”


“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Get it done.”


I was going to swipe the word “engage” and start using that too (I already used it about 20 times while mowing the front lawn in the heat and humidity today) but I think I’ll start swiping all those words :-)


A church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning

I came across the below video last night and instantly recalled that I heard this story at a conference in college 23 years ago.

It’s a sign of a good story when you can still remember the story years later and don’t mind listening to it again.

The storyteller is Tony Campolo, who today is a retired sociology professor and an associate pastor at a Baptist church in Philadelphia.

It’s a story about an evening he spent in a diner surrounded by prostitutes.

If you’d prefer reading it, a NPR storyteller posted the story here.

At the 7:00 mark he slips into Baptist preacher mode for the final minute. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that type of preaching, so I didn’t mind and he managed to pack a lot into that one minute.

I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if Agnes came back to the restaurant with her cake. I hope she did.


Even a prostitute in a slum in Kenya can become a healer

I confess that sometimes I get cynical about hope even though I know we all feast on hope to varying degrees.

As a marketing copywriter, I’m all too aware of how the purchase of most products isn’t so much about the product but an investment in hope.

Hope that the food will improve your health… hope that the dress will flatter you… hope that the gym membership will take away a few inches from your waistline… hope that the new house/car/garden/whatever will make you feel better about yourself.

It’s all about hope. So I feel like a hope dealer sometimes and wonder if it would be better if we all lived on a low-hope diet.

Fortunately videos like the one below help refresh my perspective on hope.

Jacqueline Novogratz is the CEO of the Acumen Fund, which provides micro loans to entrepreneurs in third world countries.

In this video she talks about Jane, who lived in a slum in Kenya. This slum is a mile long and 2/10 of a mile wide and has a population of a half million people crammed into shacks.

Even though she grew up in this slum Jane had two dreams: to become a doctor and have a family.

But then her mom died and her husband left her, so she turned to prostitution to support her children.

The humiliation and shame were worse than the poverty.

She got a micro loan to buy a sewing machine. She re-purposes old ball gowns by adding frills and ribbons to them and sells them as dresses

If you hit the pause button at the 4:10 mark in the video you can see her showing some of her dresses and jewelry to potential customers.

Look how nicely dressed these women are. Then look at the poverty in the background. These women have dignity even in these dire surroundings and it’s inspiring.

At the 5:23 mark hit the pause button again and see the new “development” she’ll be able to move into, so she can live and work in her business in conditions that would seem paltry by our standards but are sheer luxury for her.

At 6:12 you hear how her dream to be a doctor wasn’t totally dashed after all.

She realized that what she really wanted to be was someone who served, healed and cured.

Jane is HIV positive and two days a week she counsels other HIV patients: “I’m not a doctor who gives out pills but maybe I give out something better; I give out hope.”

Watch the whole thing:


Surrender as an active verb

Surrender is an idea that has become debased.

So says Brian Eno who, in addition to being one of Britain’s most creative artists, has been a record producer to the likes of Coldplay, David Bowie and U2 (my favorite band).

As a society we tend to reward control. Control is what we think successful people are all about.

But surrender? That’s what we do when we just cave in to something, defer to someone with more talent or authority than us, or treat as a luxury at the end of our career when we retire and kick back, right?

Eno thinks that’s all wrong and makes the case for surrender as an active verb:

Control and surrender have to be kept in balance.That’s what surfers do – take control of the situation, then be carried, then take control.

In the last few thousand years, we’ve become incredibly adept technically. We’ve treasured the controlling part of ourselves and neglected the surrendering part. I want to rethink surrender as an active verb. It’s not just you being escapist; it’s an active choice.”

Because Eno produced U2’s most recent album, No Line on the Horizon, and because that album has a song called Moment of Surrender, I couldn’t help but revisit that song to see if there are clues there in how to make surrender an active verb.

Vision Over Visibility

“Vision over visibility” has been U2 singer Bono’s motto for a long time. That phrase makes its debut in the Moment of Surrender song: “At the moment of surrender/vision over visibility.” He also sings about the desire “to be released from control.”

Vision over visibility is the moment when you see the place but can’t see yet how to get there.

It’s an insistence on looking past what you can see in favor of what could be. That’s surrender as an active choice.

Pack Your Suitcase

OK, so I couldn’t help but wrap this up by quoting from another U2 song, Walk On:

“We are packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been; A place that has to be believed to be seen.”

That’s active surrender too.

Walk on. Might as well rock on, too, while you’re at it.